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Sandra Bullock and the blind side of NCAA March Madness

A movie like "The Blind Side," with Sandra Bullock and depicting a real scholar-athlete, has a lesson for the NCAA in this March Madness: Get the graduation rates up for players, especially blacks. Otherwise, Uncle Sam may be on your case.

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Sandra Bullock and her movie “The Blind Side” have something to teach the NCAA during its 2010 Division I men’s basketball tournament – or March Madness.

The lesson: Even the least-educated athlete recruited by a college – like the real-life and once-homeless Michael Oher depicted in “The Blind Side” – can become both a great student as well as a great team player.

The National Collegiate Athletic Association still has far to go in its effort to make sure the words “scholar athlete” ring true in men’s basketball. A prime example: A No. 1 seed in this year’s tournament, the University of Kentucky, recently had a 31 percent graduation rate for all its players (and 18 percent for black players).

The NCAA’s new system bars a team from postseason competition if it fails to meet a minimum score in athletes’ grades and graduation rates. But the system doesn’t go far enough, according to US Education Secretary Arne Duncan. A former Ivy League and professional basketball player, Mr. Duncan wants the NCAA to raise its bar high on graduation-success rates. In recent years, he says, 1 out of 5 men’s teams has graduated less than 40 percent of their players.

He would not be speaking out unless he had a whip to crack: the threat of the government withdrawing the tax-free status of offending schools or the antitrust exemption for the NCAA.

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